U.S. Women's Sixes: Swart's Two-Sport Year, Petty on Building a Team

PHOTO BY JASON BASS


SPARKS, Md. — Toward the end of Wednesday's U.S. Women’s Sixes practice, Sam Swart and her teammates were engaged in the traditional ball hunt.

Danielle Pavinelli flipped a ball in the direction of Swart, who brought the head of her stick to the field and began dribbling with it — channeling the teenage version of herself that was once a member of the U.S. U19 field hockey team.

For Swart, sometimes her two favorite sports overlap in her mind. It’s only natural.

“Everyone is like, ‘This isn’t field hockey. We’re up here,’” Swart joked. “Sometimes, I just want to bend over and hold the stick that way.”

This summer, lacrosse and field hockey have blended with one another for the first time since she was a senior at Archbishop Carroll (Pa.). The Syracuse women’s lacrosse grad announced on June 6 that she plans to use her final season of NCAA eligibility to play field hockey for the Orange under legendary coach Ange Bradley (the same coach who led the U.S. U19 team when Swart played).

Since then, Swart has been training to compete at a high level in two sports that share plenty of similarities. Coach Bradley and the Syracuse staff are comfortable in knowing that training for Sixes lacrosse will keep Swart plenty in shape for when she returns to campus — just two weeks after the conclusion of the World Games.

“Whenever I go to play lacrosse, I bring my field hockey stick and vice versa,” she said. “The agility in exercising and working on is very similar [between the sports]. You’d be surprised. It’s just making moves from down low instead of higher up. It’s more like Sixes, honestly. It’s short, fast, intense moves at full speed.”

Swart, one of the vocal leaders of the U.S. Sixes team, wasn’t ready for her time at Syracuse to be over, and she had always planned to compete in two sports at some point in her career. The rigors of Syracuse lacrosse made it difficult to juggle two sports, but with her time in the Carrier Dome finished, she saw an opportunity.

Both former coaches Gary Gait and Kayla Treanor encouraged Swart to play field hockey if she had the chance.

“Coach Kayla really pushed me to do it,” Swart said. “She said, ‘You’re going to regret not doing it.’ I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it.’”

Although Swart still plans to return to lacrosse via Athletes Unlimited and the U.S. national teams, she’ll turn her focus to field hockey starting this August. It’s a sport she grew up playing in the Philadelphia suburbs and she’ll join many of her former club teammates at Syracuse.

The school was, obviously, a fit for Swart. The familiarity with Bradley and her staff made the transition much easier. She’ll be in great shape coming off a World Games appearance with the Sixes team.

Swart even believes her running style fits field hockey more than it does her current sport.

“I run horizontal, so when I put the field hockey stick in my hand, I look normal,” she joked. “It looks like I’m going to fall, so in field hockey, I look normal but in lacrosse, I look weird.”







ANOTHER FIRST FOR PETTY

Paige Petty knows what it means to build something from scratch — to help form the foundation of a team based on promise and potential that might not fully materialize in her time.

Petty, 24, transferred from Virginia Tech to Pitt to play for the Panthers in their inaugural season this spring. A five-time All-American attacker, the graduate student with an interest in criminology and perhaps one day working for the FBI turned out to be one of the steals of the transfer portal. She led the Panthers in goals (43) and draw controls (71). Pitt exceeded expectations in year one, narrowly losing to Duke and Virginia Tech, giving Boston College fits and then defeating Louisville in the ACC tournament.

This summer, Petty will break new ground as a member of the first-ever U.S. Sixes teams competing in The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I love being a part of the buildup of a program, let alone Sixes itself,” Petty said before this training camp. “It’s really cool to see the correlation, to set the standards and culture for the future generation especially if they get Sixes into the Olympics eventually.”

Petty currently lives in Charlotte with three of her Pitt teammates. They play for a post-collegiate team. With Sixes, she has reunited with coach Regy Thorpe, who recruited her to Pitt before he left to become the assistant coach at Florida.

“I really like the speed and intensity,” Petty said. “There’s just never a dull moment in the game.”

— Matt DaSilva

MASERA READY TO COMPETE

Ellie Masera admits she hasn’t traveled too far away from the Eastern Seaboard and her hometown of Eastport, N.Y.

The sophomore who plays close to home at Stony Brook will venture out next month for the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. Fresh off scoring 67 goals and dishing out 20 assists for the Seawolves, Masera was added to the 12-player roster for the U.S. women’s Sixes team.

“It’s such an honor to play with such talented girls,” Masera said. “I got the call and I was grateful because I’m really close with a lot of these girls. Sixes is such a middie game and half our team is middies, so it’s nice to go up and down. The fast breaks are so awesome and fun to watch.”

Just shy of her 20th birthday, Masera is already getting a chance to play for a gold medal with a U.S. national team. She has a rare opportunity, but she also has an eye for the bigger picture.

“To be in [Alabama] together and win gold would be amazing,” she said. “Winning gold would mean so much in future years, because we’re hoping to get into the Olympics with Sixes. There’s a bigger goal of growing the game.”

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